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Tom Monahan

Tom Monahan

Thomas L. Monahan III is the Chairman and CEO of Corporate Executive Board, a leading provider of best-practices research, data, and tools to more than 120,000 executives and organizations, including 80% of the Fortune 500 and 70% of the FT 100.

The Worst Vacations

I'm very bullish on all that technology brings to organizations and leaders. Technological developments in the area of telecoms and data mobility provide a level of freedom, mobility and information access that can help organizations perform at very high levels. But they also can keep leaders from truly gaining the personal rejuvenation and/or distance from the day to day necessary to succeed.

A few things I've seen help strike this balance.

First, assess yourself. What routines for contact will put you in the right frame of mind to disengage? Some leaders would prefer to be accessible only by carrier pigeon, others will enjoy themselves and relax more effectively if they touch base for a few minutes each day to assure themselves that nothing requires their attention. As with most things, having a clear sense of how you operate best helps quite a bit.

Second, assess the situation in the organization right now. What level of your presence and engagement is required? Certainly the ability to disconnect is really important, but so too is the ability to say, "Now is not a time for me to leave, or be completely out of contact."

Some of the worst vacation experiences I've seen were people who were unable to say this to themselves, their spouse/partner, children, etc., and ended up performing calendar gymnastics - spending all day each day on the phone, checking Blackberry while knee deep in surf, flying back and forth to a vacation location, pulling all nighters to work while the family/friends slept - rather than simply saying, "This is one of those very rare times when the right answer is to put all my energy into the situation at hand." It won't and shouldn't happen more than a handful of times in a career.

Third, make sure a smaller set of people know how to reach you, and be sure that the right people have a sense of what your response times will be.

Fourth, manage your re-entry. The distance and perspective that you acquire during a break is often lost immediately upon your return. Write down three or four questions you're grappling with on your way out the door, and before life swamps you again, revisit them on re-entry. Distance and perspective will have either answered them, or possibly rendered them no longer all that important.

By Tom Monahan

 |  August 11, 2009; 8:23 AM ET
Category:  Leadership personalities Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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When I'm on vacation, I am incommunicado. That's how I keep my sanity. The idiots who stay connected are just that - idiots. I have to deal with them all the time.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | August 13, 2009 9:13 AM

Your comment smacks of George Carlin...I'm paraphrasing, but it goes something like "when you're driving, anyone who goes faster than you is a crazy a******, anyone driving slower than you is a stupid idiot"

Guess what? Everyone does it differently. If that works for you, congratulations.

Personally, I hope to become important enough to be relied on when I'm there, but not so important that life can't go on without me when I'm not.

Posted by: moo21 | August 13, 2009 9:51 AM
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When I'm on vacation, I am incommunicado. That's how I keep my sanity. The idiots who stay connected are just that - idiots. I have to deal with them all the time.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | August 13, 2009 9:13 AM
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My perspective just changed. Big Time.

Posted by: Dermitt | August 11, 2009 9:41 AM
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